By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Syrian-Americans have expressed anger at the missile strike on their homeland as they celebrated their country’s independence day at a rally in Pennsylvania.
The Morning Call of Allentown reports a crowd of about 50 Syrians chanted in Arabic and sang the Syrian national anthem at the annual event. They also sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
The rally in Allentown is usually a celebration of Syria’s independence. But the Syrian community, which is one of the largest in the US, is deeply divided about its feelings about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Saturday, those commemorating Syria’s independence from France in 1946 were on Assad’s side, calling the missile strike by the US, Britain and France illegal.
President Donald Trump has spoken with the leaders of France and the United Kingdom individually to discuss their joint military operation in Syria.
The White House says Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday following airstrikes to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for a suspected chemical attack against civilians in the town outside Damascus.
The White House says the leaders agreed the airstrikes in Syria “were successful and necessary to deter” the future use of chemical weapons.
The suspected chemical attack on April 7 in Douma killed at least 40 civilians, with families found suffocated in their houses and shelters. Assad’s government has denied responsibility, but the US, France and Britain say they have proof.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the US, France and Britain launched joint military strikes after gathering evidence that Syrian armed forces had used chemical weapons.
Le Drian said in an interview Saturday on French TV channel TF1 that they were able to verify that gas was used, including “chlorine undoubtedly.”
The strikes earlier Saturday were a response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government using suspected chemical weapons on its people on April 7, killing 40 civilians in Douma in the eastern Ghouta region.
The French minister says the chemical attacks occurred during an offensive by the Syrian armed forces “at a time when there was resistance that Bashar Assad wanted to eliminate more quickly.”
Le Drian says Assad “is a regular user of chemical weapons” and had to be stopped.
Syria’s deputy parliament speaker says he believes Western countries could again use the pretext of chemical weapons to launch airstrikes on his country.
Najdat Anzour told The Associated Press on Saturday that Western countries want to resume Syria peace talks in Geneva with conditions that include drafting a new constitution, holding presidential elections and forming a Cabinet with the participation of armed opposition groups.
He says such conditions for relaunching the peace talks are “unacceptable and impossible.”
The US, Britain and France launched airstrikes at Syria earlier Saturday in response to a suspected chemical attack on civilians by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government last weekend that killed at least 40 people.
The allied coalition says it has proof that poisonous gas was used last weekend in Douma. Syria and Russia deny it.
Greek police say about 6,000 to 7,000 people turned up at a rally and march in central Athens organized by Greece’s Communist Party to protest the US-led missile attack against Syria.
The protesters gathered at Athens’ central Syntagma Square before marching to the US embassy, chanting anti-US slogans and holding banners. Once there, they wrote “Americans, murderers of peoples” on the pavement in red paint and tried, unsuccessfully, to lob paint into the embassy’s courtyard.
Police vehicles barricaded access to the embassy, and there was a heavy police presence. Protesters left peacefully.
The US, Britain and France launched joint airstrikes in Syria earlier Saturday in response to a suspected chemical attack on civilians by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. The suspected chemical attack April 7 killed at least 40 people.
Vice President Mike Pence say the United States did the morally right thing when it attacked Syrian chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for an attack on civilians.
Pence is crediting the strong leadership of President Donald Trump and US allies for conducting what he says was a successful strike with no reported civilian casualties.
He told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, on Saturday that the operation “significantly eroded” and “degraded” Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and that the mission was “completely accomplished.”
He also stressed that the president made clear the US is “prepared to sustain this effort.”
He says there will be a price to pay if Syrian chemical weapons are used again. Last weekend’s suspected chemical attack killed 40 civilians, including women and children.